20-year-old now charged with DUI manslaughter in fatal New Year's Day wreck

June 24, 2013

Police arrested a man on multiple Jacksonville DUI felonies this week, six months after a passenger in his car, a 20-year-old University of North Florida student, was killed in a New Year's Day crash. Sean Franke is facing several felony charges, including DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI causing serious injury, according to a report by Action News Jacksonville. Franke allegedly drove his pickup truck off the road and into a pole, killing one passenger and injuring two others and himself, the television station reported. Franke and the two surviving passengers were hospitalized with injuries.

The most serious charges Franke now faces in this Jacksonville DUI case are DUI manslaughter and the two counts of DUI causing serious bodily injury. DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, while DUI causing serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count. So Franke could get up to 25 years on those charges alone, and also faces misdemeanor DUI charges. The long delay in charging a DUI manslaughter case is not uncommon in Duval County DUI cases. In any DUI that results in an injury, police can test the blood of the driver without consent as long as certain requirements are met. This differs significantly from a traditional DUI when a driver is pulled over because police suspect a driver is impaired. In a standard Jacksonville DUI case, a driver can refuse to submit to a breath test or field sobriety exercises, though it can result in an automatic one-year driver's license suspension. But when there are serious injuries or a death involved, the driver has no choice. In this Jacksonville DUI case, the driver was hospitalized, too, and may or may not have even been conscious when his blood was taken. Blood tests are also much more accurate when reading blood-alcohol level to determine if it is higher than the legal threshold of .08.

While it may seem obvious that alcohol was involved in a crash with a truck full of 19-and 20-years who were out for New Year's, assumptions alone are not enough to prove a person's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The delay was getting the blood results back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the television station reported. Franke turned himself into police when the charges were finalized and is being held in jail on a $205,000 bond. Charges and potential penalties in Jacksonville DUI cases increase significantly when people are injured and even more so when someone is killed. Our Jacksonville DUI attorney has represented hundreds of clients on Jacksonville DUI charges and knows the series of specific steps police must follow to properly investigate a DUI so charges can stick. In many cases, they do not.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.